One element that needs to exist for me in a work environment is goofiness. I didn’t choose the word, “humor,” because that means different things to different people, and I don’t want to venture into the inappropriate. We have to display the wonderful relationships we have with each other to our students. Mutual agreement was the key between two teachers. My colleague across the hall wasn’t interested in goofiness, but my colleague kitty-corner to me was. We agreed that we would honor a locked door, or an obvious intensive lesson, but we still had fun.
One example that I used often (we taught in an older building, with two doors to every classroom) was the fly-by. My class would huddle up, decide what we wanted to do, and then conduct the fly-by as quickly as possible, through another teacher’s classroom (in one door and out the other). Maybe we would read one line of a book out loud as we walked through, maybe we would all shuffle in, do a small lil’ dance, and then shuffle out. Maybe we all walked in,sang happy birthday to someone in the room (whether it was their birthday or not) and then walked out.
These goofy demonstrations showed the students that we (the teachers) had a mutual respect and friendliness between us. It showed that we were human enough to need a break once in a while to have fun. It also made clear the boundaries between work and play – when it was appropriate and timely, and when it wasn’t. The students understood all of this through our examples.
Jim Henson is a huge hero of mine, and he was very clear about play and imagination in his line of work (obviously). One of Henson’s writers and puppeteers, Jerry Juhl, mused,
“Underneath the zaniness, or perhaps standing next to it, there was a sense of decency that the characters had, about the world and to each other. And I think it’s one of the real legacies that Jim left. And I think it’s one of the reasons he’s so loved today, because he could be a pop culture figure doing mass entertainment, and he could explore the edges of crazy, goofy comedy. But at the core, there was always a sense of social values and decency.”
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to find that balance in the classroom? Humor certainly has a place in school, and it can be a welcoming and disarming technique in establishing both technique and real-life learning. The Washington Post wrote a great piece about it, which you can read here.
Until then, smile and keep on discovering new ways to have fun with your students.